Lakeview Farms, Delphos, Ohio, produces a diverse array of refrigerated foods, including sour cream, dips, gelatin desserts, cheesecakes, flan and frozen desserts for retail supermarkets through distributors and warehouse-direct sales, as well as foodservice customers, convenience stores and warehouse clubs within the United States and internationally.
In August 2004, one of the company’s largest customers needed to change its channel of distribution in a very short period of time, and Lakeview Farms had to respond in a hurry. Three weeks later, NT Logistics, Frisco, Texas, arranged the full distribution for Lakeview Farms countrywide.
“We were in a position where we needed to move quickly, and they accepted that challenge and really did it seamlessly,” says John Kopilchack, Lakeview Farms’ vice president of sales. “In a service business where you need to perform every week, it’s critical to strategically align yourself with a partner who continues to strive for perfection and improvement.”
NT Logistics brought Lakeview Farms a national distribution network that allows it to serve customers across the country despite increasing fuel prices and other cost increases.
“There’s a tremendous amount of pressure upon us today to keep costs in line or even reduce costs,” Kopilchack says. “The efforts that NT has put forth to help maximize trucks and to help us be as efficient as we possibly can be has allowed us to compete in this environment.”
There is also continuous pressure to reduce lead times. Once a purchase order is received, Lakeview Farms’ timeframe for delivery to a warehouse needs to be as short as possible, minimizing customers’ inventories on hand. Further complicating the task of shipping these goods across the country is the products’ short shelf life and its need to stay at temperatures of 40° or below.
“We haven’t seen anybody that can do it as well as NT,” Kopilchack says.
With NT’s help, Lakeview Farms has optimized the efficiency of its trucks by combining additional customers with the flow of products through NT Logistics. This has enabled them to maximize the weights of the trucks and further control costs.
“There’s complexity whenever you are taking many purchase orders and combining them in a trucking lane that gets all those goods where they need to be in a timely fashion,” Kopilchack says. “A lot of thought goes into how that’s coordinated because the weights of the orders change each week. It’s a continuous work in progress.”
Constant communication is key
Ongoing, real-time visibility is a critical success factor in this business. Since turning over management of distribution to NT Logistics, Lakeview Farms knows where its vehicles are, where the products are and the status of its shipments at all times.
“The last thing that we ever have to worry about is our products getting to the customer in good condition in a timely fashion,” Kopilchack says.
The communications channel with NT is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If there’s a problem with a client on a delivery at 11:00 Sunday night, NT is on top of it. With the ability to identify a problem and communicate it to the customer in real time, it’s easier to develop solutions and buy some time with the customer.
“Are we perfect? No,” Kopilchack says. “But, we know when we’re not, and we’d rather inform the customer of that vs the customer informing us.”
Generously sharing knowledge
Besides the trucks arranged by NT, Lakeview Farms also has 10 semis on the road. In the spirit of partnership, without seeking any monetary gain, NT has freely shared its expertise to help Lakeview Farms manage its own trucking operations.
“They have a tremendous handle on moving goods throughout the country. Not only do they provide great service, [but] they [also] provide the understanding and technology to help us become a better transportation firm as well,” Kopilchack says. “There are no secrets; they share what they know. They will help you become better even if it means they lose a little bit of freight in the process. That’s a great strategic partner.”
“I think there’s a spirit of cooperation and sharing common goals that really makes the relationship special,” Kopilchack adds. “They really pride themselves on satisfying your needs.”